Review: Crowded House Leaves You Wanting More on “Gravity Stairs”

Videos by American Songwriter

RATING CHART:
1 note – Pass
1.5 notes – Mediocre
2 notes – Average
2.5 notes – Above Average
3 notes – Good
3.5 – notes Great
4 notes – Excellent
4.5 notes – Exceptional
5 notes – Classic

CROWDED HOUSE
GRAVITY STAIRS
(BMG)
♫♫♫

It has been confusing to follow the erratic history of Crowded House. The Australian/New Zealand band has disbanded and reformed multiple times since its still-fresh eponymous debut album appeared in 1986. But their most recent overhaul in 2021 seems to be sticking. 

That’s likely because co-founder Neil Finn hired his two multi-instrumentalist sons, Liam and Elroy, as full-time members in 2021 to join him and co-founder Nick Seymour on Dreamers Are Waiting. After Finn filled in for the fired Lindsey Buckingham on Fleetwood Mac’s last tour (along with guitarist Mike Campbell), the Finn family (plus Seymour) returns with this 11-track set. 

These songs emerge utilizing the established Crowded House playbook of strummy guitars supporting ringing folk/rock/pop. Finn’s delicate, earnest voice returns to sing about…well, it’s often hard to tell what. A few tunes, such as “All That I Can Ever Own” and “I Can’t Keep Up With You,” employ slight psychedelic touches that admirers of XTC’s similarly styled Skylarking album will appreciate. 

Some tracks, like “Teenage Summer” (the first single and video) and the tuneful “Oh Hi” highlight choruses that immediately entice like the group’s biggest hit, “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” did nearly four decades ago. But generally, Finn and sons spoon out pleasant, low-key, pensive material that’ll take a few spins to connect with.

The brushed drums of the hushed “Black Water, White Circle” add to the wistful, quizzical qualities of lyrics like, I must be dreaming / The lizard screaming / Don’t look for meaning, only purpose. On “Blurry Grass,” falsetto backing vocals float around Finn’s soulful lead as if in a mind-altering haze. 

The closing “Night Song” leaves the listener drifting in another sonic miasma, navigating odd concepts while maintaining a comfy, unassuming beat.

On Gravity Stairs, the current edition of Crowded House leaves you wanting more—or at least wanting to return for another go-round in hopes of untangling a few more of the alluring melodic and lyrical puzzles that lie beneath the collection’s shimmery surface. 

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